Nobody should have been surprised when Aaron Harrison was the player for whom Olympiacos Piraeus head coach Georgios Bartzokas drew up the game-winning play in the final seconds against Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv on Friday night - or that the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague rookie buried the shot for the victory.
Harrison had just looked on in disgust from the bench as his teammates were unable to corral a missed free throw and gave up a long three-pointer by Maccabi’s Scottie Wilbekin to tie the game with 7.6 seconds to play.
After a couple of Maccabi fouls and with 4.0 seconds remaining, Harrison in-bounded the ball to Sasha Vezenkov, got it back and dribbled twice before unleashing a long three-pointer over Elijah Bryant. It went in and Olympiacos picked up an 85-82 home win.
"Coach told me to be aggressive and drew up a great play. I just had to do something to help my team win," Harrison said after the game, in which he scored 12 points off the bench.
It completed a strong week for Harrison, who had also drained 4 three-pointers in scoring 16 points to go with 4 rebounds and 3 steals in a Round 3 win over AX Armani Exchange Milan a couple of days earlier.
"My teammates and my coaches stuck with me. Shooting is my thing, so I just have to stick with it, stay confident, and use that to try to help my team win," said Harrison, who made 4-of-11 three-pointers in scoring one point more in the Milan game than he had in his first two games together in his debut EuroLeague season.
For the rest of the season, Olympiacos opponents had best deny Harrison the ball in late-game situations as the 25-year-old, who played the previous two seasons with Galatasaray Istanbul in the 7DAYS EuroCup, has a history of game-winners.
At college with the famed University of Kentucky, Harrison buried no less than three key late three-pointers in the Wildcats’ run to the 2014 NCAA Championship Game. In the round of 16, he hit from the left corner with 39 seconds left to put Kentucky ahead. Two days later, he knocked down a contested triple from the left wing with 2.3 seconds remaining to send Kentucky to the Final Four. And in the national semifinals, Harrison did it once again, hitting a contested three-pointer from the left wing with 5.7 seconds to play for a 74-73 win over Wisconsin. Kentucky would eventually lose in the championship game to Connecticut, but Harrison had put his clutch shotmaking skills on display.
Fast forward six years, and Harrison gave Maccabi a reminder that he can still do it.